Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Google Introduces a New Knowledge Graph

Today, Google announced a major change to the way that their search engine will handle your inquiries and serve results. Starting today for most U.S. users will be take advantage of Google's Knowledge Graph. The Knowledge Graph is designed to search and serve results based on natural language. What this means is that it is trying to determine what it is that people really want when they enter a search term or phrase. For example, the Knowledge Graph recognizes the difference between someone using the word "oasis" to search for information about the band versus using "oasis" to search for information about patches of vegetation in a desert.

The search results now include summaries of key points in the links that are listed in your search results. The results page will include sections based on the different meanings of your search term. If you use the example of "oasis" again there is a section of links about the band and section about the geographic feature.

The video below features Google employees talking about the Knowledge Graph and what it means for your search experience.

Applications for Education
Google's Knowledge Graph could be very helpful in getting students to recognize the multiple meanings of their search terms. The Knowledge Graph could prove to be frustration-relieving for students who are struggling to find information relevant to their inquiries. That said, students should still be taught how to use the proper search terms and search modifiers. Combining proper search term usage with the new Knowledge Graph-based results should yield better results than if students just rely on "Google to do it for them."

Interactive Animated Explanation of Body Mass

As I've mentioned in the past, my school district recently received a grant for programs to address the rate of childhood obesity in our schools. Therefore, I always take note of things like Explania's interactive, animated explanation of body mass index. The animation includes two interactive breaks during which viewers can calculate their body mass indexes and their ideal weights. The narrator uses metric units in the explanation, but the interactive elements can be used in metric or imperial units. Try it out as embedded below.

Calculate your Body Mass Index (BMI) - Explania

On a related note, you might also like Explania's explanation of cholesterol.

What is Cholesterol? - Explania

7 Great Note-taking Tools for Teachers and Students

This is another post that was prompted by a reader's email. The email was looking for a list of recommended note-taking tools. I've reviewed a lot of note-taking tools over the last five years, but I have never made a list. So here's my list of seven great note-taking tools for students and teachers.

InClass is a free iPhone and iPad app that could be a very useful tool for students carrying those devices. InClass provides students with tools for taking text, audio, and video notes. Students can also use the app to take pictures of hand-outs, slides, and other valuable information that they see in class. Taking notes is not all that InClass can be used for. It can also be used as a task management tool to help students keep track of their schedules and due dates. To share notes, images, videos, and schedules students can connect InClass to their Facebook accounts.

Color Note is a simple note-taking app that I've been using on all of my Android phones for the last year (yes, it's been a rough year for phones in my life). Color Note offers a sticky note environment, a calendar option, to do list options, and the option to share your notes via email and sms. Color Note does offer an option to password protect your notes so that even if someone takes your phone, your notes are still protected.

Save Meeting is a meeting recording app for iOS and Android devices. The app allows you to record the audio of your meetings, transcribe the audio, and share the recordings and transcriptions with others. The transcription options that I tried were somewhat limited (30 seconds of automatic transcription and 5 minutes of manual transcription) but should be sufficient for recording quick notes during a meeting. Save Meeting uses a freemium pricing model. At the free level you can save up to 1,000 minutes of audio. offers a simple platform for taking and sharing notes. To use just go to the site and start typing your notes. When you want to share your notes just click "short" to have a shortened url created for sharing on Twitter, Facebook, or wherever else you like. It really couldn't be any simpler to use.

No list of note-taking tools would be complete without mentioning Evernote. Evernote can be used by students to take notes on the web, on their desktops, on their Android devices, and on their iOS devices. Their notes can be automatically synchronized across devices whenever they connect to the web. Notes can include text, images, links, and more. Click here to read about how I am using Evernote.

mySchoolNotebook is a service for taking, saving, and sharing notes online and offline. The basic purpose of mySchoolNotebook is to provide a place that students can take and organize notes from all of their courses. Students can create notebooks for each of their courses to which they add text and image notes. To use mySchoolNotebook you do have to have a Facebook account. By signing into mySchoolNotebook with a Facebook account students are able to connect with and share notebooks with their friends taking the same courses that they are taking. mySchoolNotebook is available to use on the web and as an iPhone/iPad app. Students can export their notebooks as PDFs if they need to have a paper copy of their notes.

If your students are already in the habit of using Google Documents to create documents, presentations, and spreadsheets it just makes sense that they take notes in Google Docs too. Teach your students to create folders for each of their courses to help them keep their notes organized. While the mobile versions of Google Docs aren't perfect, they can be used for some basic viewing and editing.

Video Explanations of IPOs

Your students may have heard that Facebook is going to make an IPO sometime soon. If they haven't heard that or if you haven't heard that, check out today's episode of CNN Student News. Your students might be wonder, what is an IPO? Here are a couple of videos explaining the answer to that question.

The YouTube channel Investopedia has a bunch of videos explaining financial topics. Included in their list of videos is a one minute explanation of IPOs.

Another YouTube channel offering simple explanations of financial topics is Finance Guy Video. Finance Guy Video uses the iPad app Show Me to create short whiteboard lessons. His explanation of IPOs, embedded below, includes the recent examples of LinkedIn and Zillow IPOs.

Moodle Tutorial Videos

This morning I received an email informing me that a source of Moodle tutorial videos that I featured three years ago has gone offline. That prompted me to search for some new Moodle tutorial videos. There are four sources that I found and think can be helpful for teachers getting started using Moodle.

Russell Stannard offers two sets of Moodle training videos. The first twenty-two part series can be accessed here. Click here to access the second fourteen part series.

MoodleRooms, recently acquired by Black Board, has a YouTube channel in which you can find tutorial videos created by MoodleRooms staff as well as some other videos that they have organized into helpful playlists.

Moodle HQ offers twenty tutorial videos produced by staff.

Using Moodle is probably the best of the YouTube channels that I found dedicated to Moodle. The videos are produced by a teacher, Mary Cooch, who is a languages teacher and Moodle trainer. Mary has produced videos in English and in French.

Try GmapGIS to Draw on Google Maps

GmapGIS is a free tool for marking and drawing on maps without having to create or use a Google account. GmapGIS provides tools for drawing lines and shapes, adding markers, adding labels, and measuring distances. To get started just visit GmapGIS and select the drawing or labeling tools that you want to use. When you are finished drawing on and labeling you can share your map by sending the link that is automatically generated for your map. You can also save a KML file for your map and view it in Google Earth.

Applications for Education
GmapGIS could be used by students to identify and label places without having to create an account. They can share their work with you by using the links generated for their maps. Students could also use GmapGIS to quickly measure distances between places on a map.

GmapGIS is simple to use, but is not quite as robust as Scribble Maps, Build a Map, or Animaps.

H/T to Google Maps Mania